South Africa has the third-highest level of biodiversity in the world, but agriculture and its impacts, are of the most significant threats to natural resources and biodiversity in South Africa.
Over the past decade it has become clear that while the current approach to farming produces cheap food in abundance it also carries hidden costs for the health of the planet and its people. Years of ecosystem degradation in South Africa’s agricultural landscapes has resulted in depleted soils, barren lands and poisoned waterways, rising input costs and greenhouse gas emissions, and increasing rural poverty.
This situation is driving a move towards the concept of sustainability in farming practices, agriculture which can protect soils and water supply, nourish people, support rural livelihoods and help communities cope with a changing climate. This concept centres on the need to build farm productivity and profitability in a way that protects the natural resources on the farm and social well-being – ensuring that the agricultural sector can meet world food demands, enhance rural livelihoods and underpin stable economic systems.
Woolworths and its suppliers are dedicated to selling products that do not cause harm to the natural world in the way they are made, and we are focused on working with our suppliers to improve farming practices.
WWF is a leader in understanding and mitigating the impacts of key drivers of biodiversity loss – including agriculture. In South Africa, they have invested in sustainable farm management techniques and tools for large and small growers in a range of commodities and currently manage several product-specific sustainability initiatives, including the Biodiversity & Wine Initiative, the Sustainable Sugar Farm Management System and the establishment of GreenChoice, in partnership with Conservation International, aimed at promoting wise resource use throughout the food supply chain.
We are establishing a collaborative project which assists in enhancing the environmental benefits, and accelerating the adoption levels, of the FFF Better Management Practices across the Woolworths supply base. The high-impact dairy sector has been identified as a good starting point for putting this collaboration between WWF and Woolworths into practice.
WWF will play an important role in verifying the progress and results achieved under the FFF programme, as well as providing specialist knowledge and experience across a range of biodiversity and water areas. Woolworths will partially fund WWF’s sustainable agriculture work, as part of the collaboration between the entities.
Woolworths broader response includes:
Woolworths Fishing for the Future initiative is a guarantee to customers that our seafood is: responsibly sourced, legally caught and has full traceability.
We are partnering with the South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI) and use their red/amber/green colour-coding system to indicate threatened species.
Woolworths has also recently introduced a new gourmet fish selection – sustainably wild-caught, MSC (Marine Stewardship Council)-certified Alaskan salmon fillets, mackerel smoked & peppered fillets and herring fillets, and sustainably farmed trout smoked fillets. The MSC certification complements the local SASSI programme, and extends our coverage for imported and farmed fish species.
Woolworths is the first South African company to become a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). The RSPO, a global organisation, has developed a set of standards called the Principles & Criteria (P&C) that define the practices for sustainable palm oil production. These standards address the legal, economic, environmental and social requirements of producing sustainable palm oil.
Currently, the majority of palm oil is produced in Malaysia and Indonesia, and according to the RSPO, these countries account for 83 percent of production. Oil palm is grown most often on newly cleared rainforest or peat-swamp forests rather than on already degraded or abandoned agricultural land - something the RSPO is closely monitoring and working to end. In both countries, the number of critically endangered and threatened land mammals has increased significantly.
The RSPO unites stakeholders from seven sectors of the palm oil industry - palm oil producers, palm oil processors or traders, consumer goods manufacturers, retailers, banks and investors, environmental or nature conservation NGOs and social or developmental NGOs - to develop and implement global standards for sustainable palm oil.
Woolworths, which uses some 600 tons of palm oil each year in its products, has joined the RSPO in order to promote and raise awareness of the need for sustainable palm oil production. This commitment includes purchasing certified sustainable palm oil certificates for the tons of palm oil used in Woolworths foods and beauty products. By buying these Green Palm certificates Woolworths is contributing to RSPO efforts to incentivise Indonesian and Malaysian palm oil producers to become certified sustainable producers. Woolworths has also undertaken to replace palm oil with alternatives where possible and has further committed to using only certified sustainable palm oil by 2015.